By Chris Chaney
Entering the 2013-14 season with a Southern Buckeye Conference-sized target on their backs, the Amelia Barons have risen to the occasion and proven that they will not relinquish their claim as the American Division’s best without a fight.
“Any body could beat any body,” head coach Craig Mazzaro said, talking about the SBC this season.
Still, at 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference, Mazzaro’s Barons have shown that they will be the team beating their opponents more often than not. And while some winter weather has thrown a wrench in some of the early-season scheduling, Amelia is right in the hunt for back-to-back league titles, something that hasn’t happened for any team in the league since 2003-04.
Led by reigning Player of the Year Tommy Hacker, Amelia has filled in some gaps left by graduating and transferring players mostly by going in-house and bumping junior varsity players up onto the main stage.
“We had some guys stepping up from JV that had to get acclimated to playing on varsity,” Mazzaro explained. “Brett Greenough has stepped up and taken on a starting role and is one of our better shooters. Sean Stewart’s the same; he’s started a few games for us. Mason Blankenship, a point guard for us, is starting to get a lot more time.”
As the new guys got acclimated, the familiar faces made sure to keep the team towards the top of the standings. Hacker is averaging 15.8 per night and good for nearly eight rebounds while Keegan Carson adds more offensive firepower, averaging just under 13 points. Garrett Weaver rounds out the Barons attack, going for 12 points a night and also grabs around seven boards.
Opening up the season 3-0, the Barons scored victories over Mount Healthy in the season opener and against Norwood in their conference opener.
Due to some weather postponements, the Barons’ matchup with title contender New Richmond became the first Friday night home game of the season.
“We ran into a pretty good New Richmond team in our first home game,” Mazzaro said. “We got a little stage fright and New Richmond got after us.
“The snow-out games hurt us a bit because it made that game a big crowd, but there’s no excuses, they were the better team.”
Whatever stage fright or acclimation period the New Richmond game represented, Mazzaro rallied the troops and the Barons have put up two of their most impressive performances of the season in its aftermath: a 79-33 drudging of Goshen and a 73-29 rout of Bethel-Tate.
“Against Goshen we really shot the ball well and ended up with 12 3-pointers,” Mazzaro said. “It was the first time we really put everything together. We defended well, kept them in the 30s and scored all of our points. That was our best game overall.”
Due to scheduling, at 3-1 in the SBC, the Barons have a full slate of non-conference games coming up before a stretch run that sees all five American Division opponents (Western Brown twice).
Amelia has two games before the calendar changes from ‘13 to ‘14 against Turpin (Dec. 28) and Taylor (Dec. 30) and Mazzaro said the goals are the same: keep plowing ahead.
“We just want to get our style down,” he said. “We need to defend, handle the ball and rebound — we really lack rebounding. We need to come up with a couple of guys who want to rebound the ball and get us some second-chance points and hopefully we can win a few of the games over the winter break.”
The Barons will host each of their next two games with both tips set for 7:30 p.m.